Issue date
06 Apr 2018
TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 
Number 843 - 7 April 2018
 
Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. Sign up to receive this bulletin every week. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]
 
Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

RESOURCES

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

UNION NEWS

So, you’re a safety rep? Tell us about it

Do you know how the TUC informs its health and safety policies, priorities and campaigns? It listens to the feedback from unions and their safety reps. To make the most of this huge body of experience, workplace safety reps are now being asked to fill out the 2018 biennial TUC survey of health and safety representatives. The survey, which is quick and easy to complete online, “is designed to provide the TUC and individual unions with information about who health and safety representatives are, and what their experiences and needs are,” says TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson. “We need this information so that the TUC and unions can do more to help health and safety representatives, and so that their views and experiences are better reflected in public policy debates and the work of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).” He adds: “We will publish the results and use them to campaign for better safety standards at work - including more rights for health and safety representatives.”

Ÿ  Fill it out: TUC survey of health and safety representatives 2018.

TUC calls for firms to be made liable for their supply chains

The TUC is calling on the government to give UK supply chain workers the right to challenge their parent employer over minimum wage, holiday pay and other employment abuses. A new TUC report estimates that 5 million UK workers cannot enforce their basic rights with their ‘parent company’, with 3.3m employed through outsourced companies, 615,000 by franchise businesses and at least 1 million by recruitment agencies, umbrella companies and personal service companies. ‘Shifting the cost’ says that unless joint liability is extended to parent employers, many supply chain workers will remain at risk of being cheated out of holiday pay, the national minimum wage and other rights. It wants joint liability laws extended so that workers can bring a claim for unpaid wages and holiday pay against any contractor in the supply chain above them. The report notes: “Compared with other countries in Europe, the UK enforcement agencies are inadequately resourced. For every 100,000 workers, the UK has 0.9 labour market inspectors (excluding health and safety inspectors). In France, there are 18.9 inspectors for every 100,000 workers.” The report notes that a procurement law that bars firms guilty of modern slavery offences from receiving public sector contracts “should be extended to breaches of all employment, equality and health and safety standards in supply chains.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady: “This is an issue that affects millions, from fast food workers to people working on building sites. Employers have a duty of care to workers in their supply chains. They shouldn't be allowed to wash their hands of their responsibilities.” She added: “Joint liability must be extended to parent employers. Without it they can shrug their shoulders over minimum wage and holiday pay abuses. Our labour enforcement laws urgently need beefing up.”

Ÿ  TUC news release and report, Shifting the risk: Countering business strategies that reduce their responsibility to workers - improving enforcement of employment rights, TUC, April 2018. BBC News Online.

Police blacklisting admission could lead to fresh legal action

Claims by unions and campaigners that undercover officers from the Metropolitan Police infiltrated union groups and spied on their safety activists have been confirmed. The Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin admitted in a letter to the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) that his officers supplied information used by the Consulting Association, a covert blacklister operating illegally. The admission came after a BSG complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission led to an internal inquiry. The ‘sensitive’ findings were kept under wraps for two years, the Met admitted. BSG secretary Dave Smith said: “We have waited six years for this. When we first talked about police collusion in blacklisting, people looked at us as if we were conspiracy theorists.” Unite said it will be ‘urgently consulting’ with lawyers to determine whether there should further legal action on behalf of blacklisted members. Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This is a major breakthrough; the police have finally been forced to admit what we already knew that they were knowingly and actively involved in the blacklisting of construction workers. It is disgraceful that they have chosen to sit on this admission of guilt for so long.” She added: “This admission is yet another reason why we need a full public inquiry into blacklisting. It is also why it is absolutely essential that the inquiry into undercover policing led by Judge Mitting is entirely transparent. That inquiry’s primary focus must be about exposing the abuses that undercover police officers were responsible for, rather than protecting the identities of the police officers involved.” GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “Admission by the police that they were directly and deeply involved in denying ordinary working people - who in many cases had done little more than raise health and safety concerns - from work and the chance to support themselves and their families is a constitutional crisis that can only be properly addressed by a full, independent public enquiry as GMB has long maintained.” No officers currently face action in relation to the collusion, despite the letter from the Met to the BSG admitting there had been an “improper flow of information from Special Branch to external organisations, which ultimately appeared on the Blacklist”. A statement from the Met said: “Allegations about police involvement with the 'Blacklist' will be fully explored during the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry” headed by retired High Court judge Sir John Mitting.

Ÿ  Unite news release. GMB news release. Morning Star and related article. The Guardian and related article. BBC News Online. Construction Enquirer.

Unite calls for action after discovery of offshore ‘blacklist’

The union Unite has questioned the culture of a North Sea operator, after a worker said he had been removed from a platform after discovering a “blacklist”. Trade journal Energy Voice reported the list, which contained the names of 15 offshore workers, was found on the Claymore platform operated by Repsol Sinopec Resources UK. A rope access rigger, who did not wish to be named, discovered the document on a shared drive in a communal computer area on the installation. He says he then took it to management and was later told to leave the platform following a disagreement, with four days left on his rota. Unite regional officer John Boland told Energy Voice there is a “cultural issue” that needs to be addressed. “The thing is that for someone to put it on a Repsol spread sheet, that person must have thought that is fine to do, so there is a culture there. In my view it is secondary blacklisting, it’s associated.” He added: “There’s nothing illegal in what they are doing, but it is a moral issue. The simple situation is if that happens then the likelihood is this person will be laid off by their company. You could have someone with 30 years’ service and an operator like Repsol could say they don’t want someone there for them.” In 2009, an agreement was reached between offshore industry officials and unions to ban the practice of blacklisting – known offshore as NRBd (not required back) – to help encourage whistleblowers with safety concerns. The Claymore platform lies around 100 miles north-east of Aberdeen.

Ÿ  Energy Voice.

Neglect of teachers’ health is ‘a national scandal’

Three in ten teachers (30 per cent) say they have turned to medication in the last 12 months to deal with the physical and mental toll their job is taking on them, a survey by teaching union NASUWT has found. More than four in ten (41 per cent) have seen a doctor or medical professional, while 15 per cent say they have undergone counselling. The union says more than threequarters (78 per cent) of teachers report they have experienced an increase in workplace stress over the past 12 months, with more than four out of five (84 per cent) saying their job has impacted negatively on their health and well-being over the last year. NASUWT found nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of teachers also feel their job has adversely affected their mental health and over half (54 per cent) feel it has affected their physical health in the last 12 months. The survey also found that in the last 12 months as a result of their job: 77 per cent of respondents had experienced anxiety; 85 per cent had suffered from loss of sleep; 22 per cent had increased their use of alcohol; nine per cent had suffered a relationship breakdown; and three per cent had self-harmed. Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) had seriously considered leaving the teaching profession in the last year. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “These figures are an appalling catalogue of dedicated and committed teachers suffering damage to their physical and mental health. It is clear that too many employers are failing to exercise their duty of care for the health and welfare of their employees and are presiding over mental and physical burnout.” She added: “It is nothing short of a national scandal that those who are dedicating themselves to giving a future to children and young people are seeing their own lives damaged by the failure of government and employers to take their health and welfare seriously. The time has come to end the culture of the ‘anything goes’ style of management where any adverse impact on teachers is regarded as collateral damage.”

Ÿ  NASUWT news release. TES.TUC mental health awareness training. Is Mental Health First Aid the answer? Depends on the question. Hugh Robertson, Hazards magazine, number 141, 2018.

Union health warning on ‘shocking’ rail diesel fume risks

Workers at Amey Rail could be facing serious health risks from exhaust fumes produced by diesel trains, a union has warned. TSSA says its members at Amey who carry out tunnel examinations could be at risk of cancer and other chronic health conditions from prolonged exposure. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Despite the seriousness of this health risk, Amey Rail’s management have not stopped using diesel powered Road Rail Vehicle Elevated Platforms in tunnels and have not provided convincing evidence that they are safe. In the nine months since Amey said they would carry out tests on diesel engine exhaust emissions, only one test has been carried out, in one tunnel. This shows a shocking lack of regard for our members’ lives!” The union leader said Amey has boasted about its high standards of health and safety to bid for big government contracts. “Amey’s CEO Andy Milner has told staff health and safety is in our DNA and that everyone should ‘100 per cent act and think that way’. That’s categorically not what’s happening with diesel exhaust emissions.” Addressing TSSA members, Cortes said: “I’m calling on those affected by diesel fumes, to contact us, so our TSSA union can understand the full picture. Amey staff should also use the close call reporting systems to log health and safety issues. We are currently surveying all of our members and will not hesitate to take whatever action is required to protect them. Amey management should now see sense and give this matter the urgent attention it deserves.” Last year, Unite launched a diesel exhaust register to allow members to log exposures to excessive diesel exhaust fumes (Risks 798). Diesel exhaust exposures have also been linked to high levels of lung cancer in underground miners (Risks 778). Recent studies have suggested the cancer toll from workplace diesel exhaust fumes exposure has been massively under-estimated in the UK (Risks 635), with official cancer estimates alone falling short by over 1,000 deaths per year.

Ÿ  TSSA news release. Morning Star.

OTHER NEWS

Harassment victims silenced by 'corrosive' work cultures

Victims of sexual harassment at work need better protection because their voices have been silenced by “corrosive” workplace cultures, a report has said. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it had discovered “truly shocking” examples of sexual harassment. It said firms should not use non-disclosure agreements to sweep sexual harassment under the carpet. There should also be a new legal duty on employers to prevent harassment or victimisation, as well as more protection for victims, said the EHRC. The report said managers should be given training on how to tackle any problems. Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, said: “What we found was truly shocking. There is a lack of consistent, effective action being taken by employers, and people’s careers and mental and physical health have been damaged as a result.” She added: “Corrosive cultures have silenced individuals and sexual harassment has been normalised. We under-estimate extent and we are complacent as to impact. We need urgent action to turn the tables in British workplaces, shifting from the current culture of people risking their jobs and health in order to report harassment, to placing the onus on employers to prevent and resolve it.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers and government must take the practical steps set out by both the EHRC and the TUC to stamp out sexual harassment. The EHRC also highlight the role union reps have in supporting workers. If you have experienced sexual harassment, join a union today.” Unite national officer Siobhan Endean said action was needed beyond the EHRC recommendations. “The government must act to reintroduce the third-party provisions under the Equality Act as in many workplaces, in particular in customer facing roles, third party harassment is all too frequent,” she said. “The Conservative’s original decision to scrap these provisions was a gross betrayal of women in the workplace.” She added “if we are to make further progress in stamping out harassment which can be frequently deep seated in the workplace, then we urgently need to recognise the role of equality reps and to give them statutory powers to challenge behaviour.”

Ÿ  EHRC news release and report, Turning the tables: ending sexual harassment at work. TUC news release. Unite news release. NUJ news release. Morning Star. The Independent. BBC News Online.

Action on work suicide risks would have ‘large impacts’

A new study has found work factors including poor job insecurity and job control are strongly linked to higher suicide risks. The paper, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, says a range of work factors lead people to contemplate and attempt suicide and to kill themselves. “Our review included 22 independent studies, which examined suicide ideation, suicide attempt and death by suicide. The studies included a wide range of sample types (eg. occupation specific vs working population based) and were set in a diverse range of countries,” it notes. “Across this broad range of studies, results of this review suggest that exposure to various psychosocial job stressors was associated with elevated risk of suicide ideation, attempts and death. Job insecurity was associated with higher odds of suicide ideation, while job control appeared to be more of a risk for suicide attempt and death.” The paper concludes “it is clear that job stressors are associated with increased risk of suicide. Thus, job stress prevention and control should be a key component of workplace as well as some other suicide prevention strategies. Furthermore, as poor psychosocial working conditions are highly prevalent, addressing these could have large population impacts in terms of reductions in suicidality.” Unions are taking action on prevention. The TUC, which has published a new guide, said it is intended “to help reps deal better with suicide risks, prevention and the aftermath of a tragedy at work.”

Ÿ  A Milner, K Witt, AD LaMontagne and others. Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: a meta-analysis and systematic review, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 75, pages 245-253, 2018. Related commentary: Marianna Virtanen. Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: can stress at work lead to suicide?, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 75, pages 243-244, 2018.  
More on
work and suicides:  Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists, January 2018. Work and suicide prevention checklist, Hazards, number 141, 2018.

Death scandal spurs DPD to abolish sick leave fines

The courier company DPD is to offer all of its drivers sick and holiday pay and will abolish its controversial £150 daily fines for missing work. The move is part of wholesale reforms to its gig-working model sparked by the death of a driver, Don Lane, who was handed the cash penalty for attending a medical appointment to treat his diabetes and who later collapsed (Risks 836). DPD said it would offer its 6,000 couriers the right to be classed as either workers, an interim status that includes paid holiday, sick pay and access to a pension scheme with the possibility to still be paid per delivery, as a fully-fledged employee or to remain a self-employed franchisee. At present more than 5,000 of the drivers are self-employed and are paid per delivery but enjoy no employment rights. Drivers who choose direct employment will be paid less per parcel delivered to offset the cost of paid holiday, sick pay and pensions. Dwain McDonald, chief executive of the company, which made £100m in profits last year, said: “We recognise that we need to improve the way we work with our drivers,” adding: “Our plan is to completely transform our overall driver offer, as well as the day-to-day working relationship we have with our drivers.” Labour MP Frank Field, chair of the Commons select committee on work and pensions, said: “It is awful that it took the death of Don Lane to prompt DPD to make this move. But having now responded in this way, the company has set a totally new direction for every other company in the gig economy to follow.” The changes are expected to be introduced in July as part of a new driver code.

Ÿ  The Guardian and related article. Daily Mail.

Court victory on job loss from ‘symptomless’ chemical harm

A landmark judgment at the UK’s highest court has ruled that three former employees of the chemicals company Johnson Matthey should be compensated after they developed a sensitivity to platinum salts which led to them losing their jobs on medical grounds. The Supreme Court ruling means that if an employer has been negligent and that negligence causes a physiological change in the body, and that change results in economic loss, an employee may be entitled to claim compensation, even though the individual is symptomless. Lawyers for the men argued that the failure by Johnson Matthey to keep their Royston and Brimsdown factories clean led them to develop sensitivity to platinum salts and that this had caused them ‘actionable’ injury. The Supreme Court overturned earlier High Court and Court of Appeal judgments, which ruled the men’s sensitivity to the platinum salts was not ‘actionable’. The Supreme Court judgment compared the impact of their sensitivity to that of coffee tasters suffering impairment of their senses of taste and smell, which doesn’t cause physical harm but does stop them continuing in their job. As platinum salts were an essential part of the work done by the Johnson Matthey claimants, they all lost their jobs. Harminder Bains from law firm Leigh Day, who represented the men, said: “This judgment is a landmark judgment in the definition of personal injury for those workers who have been negligently exposed in the workplace and who have suffered an injury which may be symptomless but which has a huge impact on their work and subsequently their life.” She added: "This landmark judgment is a clear warning to all employers that they cannot side-step their health and safety responsibilities to their employees and must not cut corners and expose other workers to hazardous working conditions.”

Ÿ  Leigh Day news release. Supreme Court Ruling, 21 March 2018. Hertfordshire Mercury. Personnel Today.

Reduce working hours to tackle teacher retention

Teachers work longer hours - and have seen a sharper drop in pay - than police officers and nurses, researchers have found. The study, by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), shows that teachers worked 50 hours a week during term time in 2015/16, compared with 44 for police officers and 39 for nurses. “Teacher working hours have been increasing since 2009/10, while police working hours have decreased slightly over the same period, though neither difference is statistically significant,” the study notes. “We also show that the long hours that teachers work during term time substantially exceeds the amount of extra holiday time they may receive.” Carole Willis, NFER chief executive, said: “Our analysis shows that long working hours is one of the main barriers to improving teacher retention, an issue that is consistent with our previous reports in this series, and that working hours have been increasing over the last five years. Therefore, we recommend that further work to reduce the working hours of teachers should be a priority for school leaders and the government.” Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “This report confirms what we already know. Teacher workload is unbearably high, it is driving the teacher recruitment crisis and leading to unnecessary stress and in many cases an unacceptable work-life balance. Teachers are used to spending time outside of school preparing exciting lessons, but are now spending unbearably long hours on tasks to satisfy the government’s obsession with data collection. This is driving many to despair.” He added: “We welcome the recent statements by the education secretary (Risks 141) and Ofsted that they are committed to addressing teacher workload. A few concessions however are not enough. We do need to see real concrete change to the working lives of teachers if we are to attract and keep people in the profession. Failure to deliver on this will be detrimental to our children and young people’s education.”

Ÿ  NFER news release. NEU news release. The Independent.

Ex-UKIP millionaire jailed for work manslaughter

A corner-cutting former UKIP parliamentary candidate and millionaire has been jailed for the manslaughter of a handyman after ignoring his safety pleas. Keith Crawford, 73, tried to cut costs while having a leak in his outdoor swimming pool repaired at his home in Exeter, a court heard. Builder Peter Clements died days after the trench he was excavating collapsed on top of him. Crawford had refused to pay £480 for health and safety precautions, telling Peter, “just carry on with what you are doing”. The 48-year-old was covered in tonnes of earth in front of his own son. Despite being pulled out by co-workers, he later died after suffering a cardiac arrest in hospital. During the trial, Crawford told the jury he felt “no responsibility whatsoever” for the death. He admitted paying workers cash-in-hand to do jobs, adding he disliked “red tape.” After the death, Crawford visited Mr Clements’ widow Amanda and handed her £1,000. He was jailed for two years six months after he was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. Crawford was also given a concurrent sentence of 12 months for breaching criminal health and safety regulations. The judge also ordered him to pay £15,000 to cover the costs of the two prosecution authorities, within six months. Mr Justice James Dingemans told him at Bristol Crown Court: “A particularly sad feature of this case is that Ryan Clements saw his father buried. I am sure there was plain and obvious risk of death from the collapse of the side of the trench.” Crawford, a property tycoon with a fortune of £7m, ignored safety warnings and refused to pay for measures which would have prevented the tragedy. Mr Clements died of a cardiac arrest in hospital some days after suffering a collapsed lung and broken ribs in the January 2015 accident. The court heard in the days leading up to the incident Mr Clements, who was working with his son Ryan and digger driver Ross Phillips, had raised concerns about the safety of the trench. The prosecution said Crawford said the cost of a trench box represented 'stupid money' and the defendant was accused of turning a blind eye to the situation. “The reason Crawford gave to Mr Phillips why a trench box was not appropriate was that it was too expensive,” said prosecutor Stephen Mooney. “Mr Philips' perception was that this work needed to be done quickly and cheaply but not safely. He was completely ambivalent to the use of safety measures and so he walked away.”

Ÿ  BBC News Online. The Mirror. Daily Mail. Plymouth Herald.

Religious group fined for scaffold death ‘cover-up’

A religious group that attempted a ‘cover-up’ when a man died after falling from scaffolding in its hall, has been fined £364,000. Amrik Blaggan, 57, died in hospital two days after he fell about 2m (6.5ft) from a platform at the Science of Soul centre in Haynes Park, Bedfordshire. The scene was cleared despite the group being told to leave it untouched, Luton Crown Court heard. Science of the Soul had pleaded guilty to criminal health and safety offences. Police attended the scene on the day of the fall in April 2014 and told the group that under no circumstances should the scaffolding platform be touched because experts would need to examine it. However, by the time environmental health officers arrived for an inspection, the tower had been removed and there was no evidence of how it looked and functioned, the court was told. But a police constable who attended the scene on the day had taken photos of the tower in situ before he left. Sentencing the group, Judge Barbara Mensah said an expert who looked at the photos taken by the officer had concluded the tower was “unsafe.” Mr Blaggan, a volunteer at Science of the Soul, climbed a mobile scaffold as lighting was fitted, and sustained serious head injuries when he fell. Prosecutor Michael Vere-Hodge QC said the scaffold was “grossly unsafe by anybody's reckoning.” He said police and paramedics were called but said there was an “attempted cover-up” as the scaffold had been removed and the roof repaired before investigators arrived. As well as the fine, the group was ordered to pay costs of £117,643. Councillor Ian Dalgarno of Central Bedfordshire Council, which brought the prosecution, said: “The scaffolding tower simply wasn’t up to the job, and Mr Blaggan’s life was put in danger the minute he started to climb it.”

Ÿ  Central Bedfordshire Council news release. BBC News Online. Bedford Today.

RESOURCES

Countdown to Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April

With just three weeks to go until International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April, a welter of new resources has become available to help union safety reps promote the global event. A striking - and free - ‘Unions make work safer’ poster has been produced by the national Hazards Campaign, to complement the forget-me-knot ribbons, bumper stickers and other resources already on offer. And the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which coordinates the world’s biggest workplace safety campaign day internationally, has produced 28 April posters in English, French and Spanish versions. They note: “Worldwide, working conditions kill a worker every 11 seconds. Every death is avoidable. There is the knowledge, there is the technology, there just isn’t the will. Union organisation is the antidote.” Writing in the new edition of Hazards magazine, ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow notes unions will be reinvigorating its global safety campaign. “Work shouldn’t be dangerous. We should be making things, not making orphans,” she says. “Our strategy will use the full union rep tool box – from negotiation, to representation, to action – to organise for decent, safety and healthy work.”

Ÿ  Hazards Campaign Unions make work safer poster (printed A4 and A3 available in single or multiple orders, for the price of postage only) and other 28 April 2018 resources. To order, telephone: 0161 636 7557 or email: [email protected]
ITUC 28 April 2018 poster in English, Spanish and French. ITUC/Hazards 28 April 2018 international events and campaign website and theme announcement in English, Spanish and French.TUC 28 April 2018 webpages. Email details of UK events to the TUC health and safety office to be included in the TUC listing. When tweeting details of your 28 April plans and resources, use the hashtag #iwmd18
Sharan Burrow: World of trouble: Unions are organising for safer, healthier and decent work, Hazards magazine, Number 141, 2018.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS  

Global: Asbestos bans don’t hurt economies

Claims that asbestos bans will be damaging to the economies of countries making the move are not true, a study has found. Scientists from the World Health Organisation’s Europe office, the University of Sydney and a US economic consulting group found economies quickly recovered from any downturn and that countries persisting with asbestos use could expect ‘substantial costs’ as a result. Findings published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health note: “As countries have shifted away from asbestos, we did not find an observable negative economic impact following the institution of bans using country-level data. To the extent that asbestos represents a similarly small share in the economies of the current consumers, a similar ban would not be expected to have a large economic impact at the national level.” The paper adds: “Where relevant regional-level data were available, we did not observe a persistent effect at a local level following declines in asbestos consumption or production.” Warning about the consequences of continued asbestos use, they conclude: “Whereas the shift away from asbestos has not had an observable persistent negative economic impact, continued use of asbestos is expected to result in substantial costs, including health costs as well as remediation/removal costs and potential litigation costs.”

Ÿ  Lucy P Allen, Jorge Baez, Mary Elizabeth C Stern, Ken Takahashi and Frank George. Trends and the Economic Effect of Asbestos Bans and Decline in Asbestos Consumption and Production Worldwide, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, volume 15, number 3, page 531, 2018.

Italy: City strikes after deadly port explosion

Workers in the Tuscan port city of Livorno went on strike on 29 March following the death of two workers when a fuel tank exploded the previous day. The victims, named as Lorenzo Mazzoni, 25, and Nunzio Viola, 53, died while doing maintenance in the industrial section of the port, which was evacuated after the incident. Press reports say the tank contained highly flammable gas. Local prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation. Italian President Sergio Mattarella said in a statement that he “stands with the families, the workers, and the city of Livorno”, calling the deaths “an intolerable tragedy.” Italian unions CGIL, CISL and UIL called the strike to protest the lack of safety on the job. Unlike other European Union countries, Italy has yet to formulate its own national workplace safety strategy, CGIL said in a statement. “A worker must be certain that when he or she leaves for work in the morning, he or she will be coming home that night,” CGIL trade unionist Gianluca Persico told the press.

Ÿ  CGIL news release (in Italian). Xinhua.

Thailand: At least 20 migrant workers killed in bus inferno

At least 20 workers have died after a double-decker bus erupted in flames in Thailand. The bus, which was carrying migrant workers from Myanmar, was heading to a factory in an industrial zone near Bangkok when the fire broke out in the early hours of 30 March near the Thai-Myanmar border. Police Lieutenant Raewat Aiemtak said 27 people managed to escape the fire, with one of them severely burned. But those at the back of the bus were trapped and could not get off. Most of the survivors had minor injuries but two were hospitalised, said Moe Aung Khine, who works in the office of the labour attache of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok. He said his office was trying to inform the families of the victims and make funeral arrangements, as well as negotiate for compensation for the victims. Thailand has the second-highest rate of traffic fatalities in the world after Libya, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics. The WHO estimates a rate of 36.2 per 100,000 population. By comparison, the UK rate is 2.9 per 100,000 and in the United States it is 10.6 per 100,000.

Ÿ  Washington Post. London Evening Standard. WHIO News.

USA: Worker death exposes Disney's poverty policies

In the wake of a federal tax cut which amounted to a massive handout to corporations, Disney promised its US employees would get $1,000 bonuses. The entertainment giant offered the bonuses to most of its employees with no conditions. But for 41,000 union members in Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, Disney has requiring them to agree to the company's contract proposals in order to qualify for the bonus. The tax cut will bring Disney some $2 billion every year. Giving every Disney employee the promised $1,000 bonus would cost Disney $125 million. A report last year revealed that many Disney employees are surviving on poverty wages. More than 10 per cent of working people at Disneyland resorts have been homeless or have not had a place to sleep in the past two years. Yeweinisht ‘Weiny’ Mesfin was one of those Disney employees who was homeless. Despite working six days per week from 11:30pm to 8am, she was forced to live in her car. Former co-worker Vanessa Munoz said her friend went missing in November 2016. A month later they heard she had been discovered dead in her car in a gym car park. Munoz said her friend was “a woman struggling and working eight-hour shifts for six days for a company that didn’t even bother helping with flower arrangements. For a company that took and took from her and terminated her on the spot after her third no call, no show. A company that asked for her costumes back as soon as possible so they can give them to the next re-hire.” In a Facebook posting, Munoz added: “Someone out there on third shift at Disney now wears my Weiny’s beanie, her sweater, shirts and pants. Someone out there is about to give as much as Weiny did for a company that refuses to pay the employees an affordable living wage.” Low wages have been linked to higher workplace accident and sickness rates (Risks 729).

USW news release. Left Voice. AFL-CIO blog. USA Today. 2017 report in the Guardian.

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2018                                                             

Ÿ  Course dates now appearing at www.tuceducation.org.uk/findacourse/

Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work
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Hugh Robertson
E: [email protected]
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